reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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snakeinthegrass. [two artists tuesday]

sansevieria (snake plants) make me think of my sweet momma. after buying one for our son, i announced that we needed to get one as well. this past spring we added snakeinthegrass to our growing army of plants and it has not let us down, growing no matter what, the best part of sansevieria – its fortitude.

“snakeinthegrass” does not seem to be a loving name, for we all have encountered people we would describe as such. you know, the ones talking out of both sides of their mouths. the mean ones with agenda. the ones who, despite any variety-pack of livelihoods or assumed compassionate demeanor, go for the jugular or throw you under the bus. mm-hmm. not necessarily a nice name. perhaps we named snakeinthegrass “snakeinthegrass” to ward off the snakesinthegrass we had encountered. we hisssss when we call it by name. “sssssssnakeinthegrass,” we say. it makes us laugh. and our snake plant giggles with us and filters the air and grows taller day by day.

maybe that is how we should deal with all negativity. get a plant, name it something that is irking you, laugh every time you call it by name, let it cleanse the air and shed the bad juju. “li’l bitch” is the name of another succulent we have in the sunroom. it stabs you, without warning, if you get too close to its long branches, hidden spiny needles at the end. quite beautiful in shape and rich green, it also reminded us of people we have encountered, hidden motives just waiting to stab you. yuck! and phew! now we laugh as we talk to our plant.

kc and boston remind us of our beloved children, spikey gets his name for obvious reasons, leticia and stumpy as well. we’re not sure about ralph and, perhaps not coincidentally, ralph-without-a-real-reason-for-his-name is not doing well. perhaps he needed a different name, a name with the job of sage. several options come to mind.

time marches on and hearts heal. eventually tales of goodness mesh together with stories filled with pain. and the air gets clearer and cleaner. and the plants grow.

*****

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mini-marshmallows and gogo boots. [merely-a-thought monday]

if you are wondering where mini marshmallows come from, wonder no more. clearly they grow on white baneberry bushes in dr. seuss-land. passing it on the trail i could not get over how oh-the-places-you’ll-go this bush was. a standout in a green forest floor, confidently colorful and nicknamed “doll’s eyes” for obvious vintage-china-doll reasons, it got my attention and it piqued my curiosity.

we watched a silly movie a couple nights ago. my sweet momma loved sandra bullock so every time i watch a sandra bullock movie i feel like my mom is right there with us, giggling or cheering her on. the movie was “all above steve” co-starring bradley cooper. its silliness is comedic fun, particularly on an evening we were not looking to be intellectually challenged. but there was an unexpectedly sweet message in this movie. mary (sandra bullock), a brilliant young woman who is a crossword puzzle constructor and has a brain full of random knowledge and would kick anyone’s patootie playing trivial pursuit, is trying to be “normal” to fit into the world. in the end she discovers the power of standing in her own shoes, which were, in her case, red gogo boots.

artists are often looked at as misfits, a little outside the box, not quite fitting in. perhaps more colorful, perhaps louder, perhaps more questioning, the job of an artist is to elicit movement in thought, in action, in emotion, in sensitivity. we are hot-pink-stemmed mini-marshmallow plants in a world of green underbrush, ever being told that exposure will grant us the ability to live in this world, to pay our bills, to get ahead. artists everywhere under the sun shudder upon hearing those words, “think about the exposure.” we don our courageous metaphoric gogo boots, go to town trying to be ‘normal’ and realize that we were really ok all along, in our own skin.

often i have heard others comment on the re-purposed stuff in our house. empty window frames, screen doors, travel-worn suitcases, branches wrapped in lights, old coffeepots doubling as canisters. we’ve been asked, “how did you think of that?” i don’t know how to answer that other than “how couldn’t i?”

i’m guess i’m not ‘normal’. in the world of christian louboutin and jimmy choo footwear desires, i’m wearing old navy flipflops and hundreds-of-miles hiking boots. in a world of oscar de la renta and ralph lauren aficionados, i’m wearing my dad’s old flannel shirt and jeans. in a world of cle de peau beaute and guerlain and creme de la mer, my face is lucky to see an oil of olay original and coppertone 30spf combo.

and i, just like artists everywhere, love to be reminded, time to time, that we were all born to stand out. each and every one of us. artist or not. no matter the road we walk. no matter the red gogo boots or hot-pink stems. stand out. in our own skin.

mini-marshmallow, anyone?

*****

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initiative. [flawed wednesday]

(sign on the door of the milwaukee institute of art & design)

a year and a half.

jen told me yesterday that the 1918 pandemic, though most often referred to as a two-year pandemic, actually lasted two and a half years.

two and a half years.

i shudder to think of the toll this pandemic will have taken if it lasts yet another year or more. we have learned so much; we have learned so little. the pandemic has been like a kaleidoscope and like a microscope, both. it has scattered us into constantly changing patterns and it has brought everything into minute focus. yet i wonder where this will take us.

artists aren’t typically conservative in-the-boxers. we take risks, live gig lifestyles, put ourselves out there, are vulnerable and push back against things we consider inequities, ironic double-talk, disinterest in humanitarianism, opacity where transparency is touted. we aren’t quiet, for it is our job to speak – in whatever medium our talent. we are, as artists, there to raise questions, to promote pondering, communicate ideas, tell stories, express emotion, encourage engagement, inspire connection and collaboration, reiterate interdependence of all people.

though this burden does not remain singly on the shoulders of artists, even banksy has participated in making statements about safety and guidelines in this pandemic. i’m not sure how much more blatant it needs to be. encouraging covid-19 responsibility, his work in the london tube in july 2020 was titled, “if you don’t mask, you don’t get.” he spray-paints the words, “i get lockdown, but i get up again” at the end of the video featuring his rats on the tube.

though attendees were 100% vaccinated, the invitation read, “masks required at all times unless actively eating or drinking.” they provided masks, sweet ones with the initials of the wedding couple and a heart. the venues had high high ceilings, exposed rafters and ductwork. the wedding was outside, cocktail hour was outside, dancing was outside.

when the rain came, we all kept dancing. outside, twinkling lights all around, we breathed in fresh air. even with masks on.

“a lot of people never use their initiative because no-one told them to.” (banksy)

initiative (noun): the ability to assess and initiate things independently; the power or opportunity to act or take charge before others do.

the milwaukee institute of art and design has posted signs on all their doors. they have taken a stance.

wearing a mask in public spaces – and vaccination – have been scientifically proven to lower the rate of transmission, sickness and death of a deadly global pandemic. already a year and a half.

exactly what additional kind of initiative do you need?

*****

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a smidge away. [two artists tuesday]

it felt like we were away. we had never explored this area of milwaukee and, with time on our hands on a stunningly beautiful day, we walked. we decided it didn’t matter if we knew our way around or not, our phones and gps would get us back. so we left the airbnb in walker point and started north. knowing the lake was east of us, it was a natural turn to the right, the water drawing us.

the architecture of cream city brick and old warehouses is charming and i kept thinking how we needed to return to take photographs when we had more time to linger. we turned east at a warehouse that had been converted to condo living, industrial balconies lining the river with colorful bistro tables and teak adirondack chairs and strands and strands of strung lights. the evenings must be beautiful walking along the river toward lake michigan.

we could see the hoan bridge arching into the sky and headed toward it. we passed a guy on the sidewalk with a shirt that said “light the hoan” and i looked it up. “light is swiftly becoming one of the most powerful tools to breathe new life into cities,” the website promotes. i remember a beautiful suspension bridge lit across the river in east boston when our son lived there. the light changed everything and was stunning. you can purchase a bulb on the hoan, be a beacon in the night and know that people are sitting on balconies gazing and dreaming, much like staring into a bonfire. the bridge and its design drew my iphone camera toward it.

we wound our way through outdoor dining seating and along the docks, multiple times mentioning to each other that we would “come back” and explore more. it amazed me that, such a short distance away from home, we felt like we were away and adventure was simply waiting. an early evening wedding stopped us short of much exploration, but there’s always the next time.

we walked out to the lighthouse where the milwaukee river met lake michigan and stood for a few minutes before turning around. the art museum beckoned from up the lakefront; beyond that we know there are beaches and a favorite coffee house in an historic water treatment plant.

we walked back some of the way we came, sticking to the river as much as possible. flowers and shadows and railings and vintage glass finials, textures and surprises, restoration and beautiful intention our companions.

passing the docked boats, though no salt in this air, i got a whiff of the past. i could imagine i was at northport harbor, watching the comings and goings of boaters and fishermen. it made me have a taste for baked clams and buffalo calamari from skippers pub, a hop, skip and a jump away in my mind as the scent of waterfront and moored boats surrounded me.

though the pandemic and travel warnings might preclude a trip to long island, we, aloud, promised each other we would return to this walkway, to stroll along the river chatting and snapping pictures, to immerse in a sculpture walk, to find the perfect bistro table on the dock sidewalks, to dine al fresco in the swirl of memories and new adventures.

getting away just a smidge away.

*****

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vulnerable. [d.r. thursday]

helen’s words have stayed with me for a few years now. we had told her of various frog encounters we were having including the time the frog jumped out of my sweet momma’s toilet (!) when we opened the lid and the first surprise frog at our little pond. “frog,” she quietly pointed out in a slight southern drawl, “is simply an acronym for fully-rely-on-god.” there was something stabilizing in her tone, something full of wisdom and experience and the flow of life. in her words there was reassurance. in her words there was encouragement.

magic appeared earlier this summer. we check for him pretty much every day. at some point one of us meanders out there and walks slowly around the pond, studying the places where a sweet frog can linger, sun, or hide. some days he isn’t there and we worry about him. when you name a frog in your pond, he becomes part of your family and pando and epic and tiny were no exceptions. we celebrated the day magic suddenly poofed into our pond. i’m certain we both heard helen’s words whispered in our ears.

i know that magic is vulnerable and yet, he sits in it. this pond is tiny and he would be hard-pressed to evade the neighborhood hawk should it decide froglegs were on the menu. the sun warms the pond each day and the rocks around it are hot to the touch, but magic has apparently figured all that out, afternooning in the shaded garden bushes, i suppose. he doesn’t seem to be scared of a big black furry dogdog running around the pond incessantly; i imagine he rolls his eyes, giggles at the visual absurdity and somehow knows dogga would never hurt him. he seems pretty secure. maybe he knows the f-r-o-g thing. no matter, taking chances, he sits in his vulnerability.

these two days – thursdays and fridays – are dedicated to our artistries. dr thursday and ks friday offer specific chances for us to dive into our craft, to talk about it, to divulge.

i have found, in these last years now of writing, that we are much like magic. the more we write, the more we divulge of where we are. our vulnerability is not just limited to artistry days. instead, we take chances each day of the week, writing where we are, where we have come from, where we may be going. we click ‘publish’ and sit in it.

at points in time, the neighborhood hawk somehow removed us from facebook for unknown reasons – a hankering for froglegs, i suppose – and trashed our youtube – burning hot reasons we will never know. it is hard to evade the acts of close-mindedness, of conspiracy theory, of damaging rhetoric, of exclusion. but we just keep writing anyway.

it was late evening when i went to look for magic. the air had deliciously cooled and we were outside – just with the pondlight and bulbs strung over the yard. there he was. in the spotlight of the pond, confidently on the edge of the rocks, breathing deeply – or however it is frogs breathe best. he didn’t move as i approached and he stayed right there, inches away, for the photoshoot. unafraid and in his own skin, he didn’t flinch. he just stayed right there. in the middle of his vulnerability.

it made me wonder if he has a blog.

*****

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pointers. [d.r. thursday]

“i believe art is utterly important. it is one of the things that could save us.” (mary oliver)

in those moments – so many of them – when all else fails to reassure – beauty reminds us. it keeps us present, in the moment, working to get to the next moment, breathing in deep breaths, slowly, slowly.

the work of an artist, in any medium, is as a pointer, just like the wooden ones with the rubber tip that your fourth grade teacher used as she pulled down the world map on the roll above the blackboard to show your class the track of an expedition or the location of a country. artists pull down the map and point to it, making it accessible to anyone, making it alive, bringing an infinity of beauty, pulling your attention away from the narrative inside, whatever it might be. it is a tool of healing, a balm, a salve. it is freeing. it is free.

we immerse in music, in the ecstasy of dance, in the flow of poetry, in the spectrum of paint on a canvas, the feel of clay pots in our hands. we sometimes forget and are driven into the angst of life’s dimensionality, missing the limitlessness of the simplest. these are the moments we turn to art.

for in the end it is not the accumulation of things or wealth or titles or power. it is simply and utterly the sheer beauty of being here, the absolutely stunning realization that we get to be here in this moment in a continuum of moments we share – albeit tiny within the vast – with the universe. inside the art.

“you can’t take it with you,” my sweet poppo would say as he would refer to money or stuff. in those pondering moments he had, he somehow knew watching the cormorants on the lake out the window, listening to music on their stereo, puttering and creating in his garage workshop, quietly coffee-sitting with my momma – these were the things of value. the day he threw caution to the wind and purchased a large painting at the splurgy karl’s mariners inn restaurant perched on northport harbor; he was answering the call of art – the pointer that drew him in and wrapped him, in this case, in the fjords of norway and endless dreaming. it moved home to home with them and always was a source of calm, a reminder of beauty and peace.

each day i walk downstairs and see this canvas on the easel. each day it reminds me of the trail we often walk, for it is the paused and erased beginning of a painting of the woods of that trail. i pay attention to it because it affords me tiny spaces of river trail within my day. it reminds me, as i scurry about attempting to get things done, to remember. it slows me down and i can hear the rustling of leaves, the birdcalls, the crunch of our feet on dirt, the chatter of squirrels. i can feel the sun atop my head, the breeze in my face, my arm looped through david’s. i can see the color of wildflowers, lush green underbrush, rough grey-brown bark, cloud-dotted blue sky. i can sense a bit of time on my hands, but just a bit. and i am right there, stepped out of the up-close worries, stepped into beauty. i am paying attention. art has done its good work.

to pay attention, this is our endless and proper work. (mary oliver)

*****

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ghrelin’s fault. [saturday morning smack-dab]

here’s something to consider:

“as estrogen declines in perimenopause and menopause, appetite ramps up. … hormone weirdness can impact your sleep (night sweats, for example). insufficient sleep can further elevate sensations of hunger.” (gennev.com)

and this additional news:

“the decline of sleep-promoting hormones including estrogen and progesterone is one big reason for disrupted sleep. and the other symptoms of menopause—from mood swings and anxiety to night sweats—also contribute to sleep problems for women. production of another critical hormone for sleep—melatonin—also decreases with age, which can compound sleep problems for women during menopause and beyond.” (psychology today, m.j. breus, phd)

shocking, isn’t it? it makes you want to sign up, doesn’t it? huh?huh?

as one who is smack-dab in the middle of this estrogen/progesterone/post-peri-full-blown-meno fun, i know i am not alone. there is nothing like lying awake in the wee of the night, filled with swirling angst-filled thoughts and lists and no shut-eye, listening to david gently snoring and dogdog running in his sleep, blanket on-blanket off-blanket on, grateful-for-each-moment-crabby-as-all-get-out, melatonin-deprived and starving. i can’t count the vast number of bananas and bowls of cereal we have eaten smack-dab in the middle of the night.

“levels of the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin increase, a reason why many women find themselves frequently hungry during this phase.” (psychology today, m.j. breus, phd)

i blame ghrelin.

and david. of course, david.

during menopause and beyond.

*****

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SMACK-DAB ©️ 2021 kerrianddavid.com


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touchstones. [d.r. thursday]

yoga series: iconic (54 x 54, mixed media)

in the beginning i knew very little. we wrote every day but only talked twice. i read his newsletters and appreciated his perspective on things. i had seen only one tiny photo of him online but we shared pictures of our coffee mugs perched in different places in our homes or on our travels. and i had studied his paintings.

you can learn a lot about a person immersing in their art. whether it’s prose or song, paint or instrumental musings, the clues are there.

i am not a fan of thomas kinkade. his paintings are tight and controlled and, for me (but not for the one in twenty homes in the US that hangs one his prints), somewhat trite and contrived. i know that “tommy k” (as scordskiii and i nicknamed him) was (and his paintings still are) inordinately successful, serene, idyllic images of cottages and streams, gardens and gates. his galleries are all over the world. the “painter of light” (as he trademarked himself in a smart marketing ploy) was not necessarily the same as his paintings. i met him one evening at QVC when i was on air during a year-long or so promotion of my music. waiting to go on-stage and on-camera, yamaha CFIIIS at the ready, i met him in the hallways between dressing rooms. he was not a light and airy friendly guy that evening. i don’t know if he was having a bad day, but really everyone at these studios was normally refreshingly jovial. except for him. this did not really bother me, however, as, though i could see “success” written all over him, having tommy k greet me and have conversation was not important. dick clark, of american bandstand fame, on the other hand, was a gem. he and his wife were lovely and generous folks and it was delightful to meet them and chat in the hallways. but i digress.

when david mentioned he was a painter i did not know what to think, what kind of paintings to imagine that he painted. our developing friendship was candid and didn’t include fluffing up the other so my curiosity about the form of his art needed sating. i visited the website he had at the time. and i was stunned. one of his newest works back then – thereafter named iconic – was graceful and beautiful and full of respect for the body woman. i dove deeper into the site. each painting i studied engaged me – the color, the white space (so to speak), the balance, the composition, the texture. i was joyous. there was no need for fluff. i loved his work.

downstairs where, prior to a real painting studio’s emergence, i had thrown paint on a few large canvasses to hang about the house, sits his easel. there are paintings stacked and rolled in various places, in and amongst the boxes and boxes of cds that find themselves housed down there.

some of these – paintings and cds – are truly relics, artifacts of our art, dating back decades, skipping stones through periods of our lives.

some of these are touchstones, moments of new form, of changing form, of solidity in an uncertain world.

some of these, the relics, the artifacts, the touchstones are cairns, pointing the way to the future, suggesting we follow both paths we know and paths we do not know. art is like that.

*****

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visit this painting ICONIC

ICONIC ©️ 2010 david robinson


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clover fluff. [two artists tuesday]

the tiny fluff of clover lives at the edge of the stone step. sweet one-half-inch beauties, they grant wishes to passing chipmunks and chickadees lingering at the birdfeeder. beauty at the edges, innocent, simple, unnoticed mostly.

the big picture often doesn’t validate the tiny edge fluff. it’s too big-picture-ish. lofty goals, high aspirations, gigantic expectations, unreasonable accomplishment demands – all take the focus off the soft sides, the padding between imposing idealism and reality. the shallow depth of field captures the up-close and blurs the rest, giving pause to some of what is overwhelming.

i suppose beauty is meant to be like that. the curl of your baby’s tendril of hair, the new leaf bud on the tree, the wisp of pink cloud in the sun-setting sky, the quiet birdcall at dawn – nothing enormous, just simple and life-giving.

so how is it that we get ourselves mixed up in so much measuring, so much set-up for disappointment. we live our minutes as if they are infinity itself. we compare and contrast and yearn and regret. we are striding, striding. even while the clover waits.

and then, sitting on the step of the deck, pondering for a few minutes, we look down and see this magical sight. the tiny world of the tiny clover beckons our attention. it will not be there forever, and, likely with the drought, will disappear before too long. but in the meanwhile it is there and verdant and growing and it counts.

once again, i am reminded, in a wondrous way, of my own tiny-ness. though i know the mark i make on the world is ephemeral, fleeting, and i sometimes, anyway, get lost in the demands and the challenges and the ups and downs of the accompanying emotional seesaw, i hope that there is something up-close about me that gives pause, that offers kindness, that is love.

my-big-picture is actually very tiny and at the edge of the step of the universe. hopefully it is like clover fluff.

*****

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the moose and the pig and me. [k.s. friday]

it is said – and clearly there are many people in the news now’days who subscribe to this – that any press…good or bad…is better than no press. you have to wonder.

way back in 2002 i released this album. ‘as sure as the sun’ was the culmination of much writing, practicing, arranging, driving, singing, hydrating, listening, reviewing, re-writing, more singing, more practicing, more driving, recording, listening, sitting and watching my producer, more sitting and watching my producer, re-recording tracks, more practicing, more driving, more hydrating, more singing, more writing, more listening, more reviewing, re-writing, practicing, singing, hydrating, more driving and a lot of worrying. i recorded the album in nashville and drove back and forth for sessions, in between which i spent my time finessing each piece of music, each song i had composed for the project.

as an independent solo artist and not a complete band with others to lean on or a label financially chugging it forward, it was a big project, a big investment in heart, time and money. my producer and i had to believe in it to keep it going. bottom line, i had to believe in it to keep it going. when it was done and i drove home with a mastered CD, it was with a mix of feeling proud, wiped out, anxious and full of dreams. ‘as sure as the sun’ was my sixth album and the first that was a full-length vocal. it was stepping out of my comfort zone. it was the edge.

i hired an agency to help with its release and a radio promoter to aid in its adds to radio airplay. i don’t recommend either. to the tune of almost $40,000 they took me for a ride and i wonder now how this was possible. but when your professed dreams come knocking it is hard to turn away and do it yourself. in retrospect, i should have just continued doing it all on my own as i had done with all the instrumental albums that preceded it. but ah, that whole retrospect thing is such a fine perspective arranger.

amazon, and various other entities, added the album to my lineup online and radio stations added songs to their airplay. ‘slow dance’ charted at number 13 on the secondary adult contemporary radio chart. i’m not really sure how important that was now – at the time, however, it kept me paying for the promoter. i suspect that was the goal.

i played concerts and interviewed on radio and drove around to wholesale and retail shows with product, selling to large box brick and mortar chains and small privately owned shops that played music and displayed cds for customers to purchase. at the label in our offices on lake michigan we put together more cardboard display boxes than i can count, shipping out displays and cds regularly. it was busy and fun and a time when people still purchased actual cds.

in the zeal of the after-release glow, i looked everywhere for reviews of this new album. i wanted to know how it resonated with people, how it measured up, what i could learn by reading others’ commentary.

and then there was this.

the title was just the start. dang. sounding like a “hoofed mammal in heat” or a “squealing pig” was a tad bit much, i thought. the first-grader-lyric-writing comment was, well, kind of first-grader-like. i noted the misspelling of norah’s name. and, much as i appreciate his style, i really wouldn’t use “soulful” to describe jim brickman’s vocal music. but i digress.

i was stunned to have such a review and didn’t know what to think. i spent lots and lots of time, an inordinate amount of time, pondering who might have written such a statement. for some reason, i did not give as much time to the emails i received, the notes, the non-promoter-sought airplay, the adds in box stores and shops around the country, and the thousands of cds that were shipped out. this review nagged me.

it’s funny to me now how i let this one commentary puncture a pinhole in my confidence. but that’s the way of negativity. to stand firmly rooted, to take on the edge, to step new steps, to grow, to believe in your ability to shift gears, sway in the wind – the inner job of every artist. one moose and one pig should not be enough to undermine you and yet, there it was.

somewhere along the line i mostly forgot about this review and got on with the business of the music business: making more music. nine albums and several singles followed this album’s release. but i never really looked for reviews. i listened to what was inside and kept stepping. one of these days, maybe when i decide that i am still relevant, i will step again.

artists of every medium adjust and re-adjust too often to the whim of the viewers’/listeners’ fancy. they lose something every time in their pursuit of wanting their work to be liked by others. yet, the artist is most certainly riding the value-train with every project released. for that project, the last project, the next new project – all represent making a living. they represent a vulnerability not broached in other life-work paths. they represent a piece of someone’s heart and soul, hoping against hope not to be pounced on. all together – the projects of all artists of all mediums – they represent the woven fabric of our narrative, diverse and rich.

as my sweet momma used to say, “if [someone] has nothing nice to say, [someone] should say nothing at all.”

though i generally like moose and pigs and am in good company either way, i trust the moose and the pig agree with her.

*****

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read DAVID’s thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY